Cork City Council meeting abandoned after property tax protests

Lord Mayor John Buttimer said the council’s fortnightly meeting could not continue given the “barracking” of protestors.

Cork City Council’s fortnightly meeting was abandoned yesterday evening as a crowd of anti-household and water tax campaigners occupied the public gallery.

The council is controlled by Fine Gael and Labour, who are usually supported by Fianna Fáil – though the latter party voted against the council’s Budget for 2013. Of the 31 members, ten come from either Sinn Féin, the Socialist Party, the Workers’ Party or are left-leaning independents.

Buttimer told that he had no option to abandon the meeting because of “constant shouting and barracking, abuse, catcalling and chanting”, and the “non-willingness” of protestors allow the council to continue.

He added that while he did not question the demonstrators’ right to protest and to make their voices heard, it was unfortunate that the council’s business could not be dealt with – as there were important local and national matters still to discuss.

Campaigner John Lonergan told The Irish Times the protest was organised in a bid to secure an answer to the question of where the taxes were being spent. He also said they wanted to send “a clear message” that there would be a “fight against the property tax when it is introduced later this year”.

A statement issued by the Socialist Party, which quoted Mr Lonergan, claimed the protesters were “ordinary members of the Cork public who have simply decided not to take it lying down anymore”.

Socialist councillor Mick Barry said the protest was a result of “what the people have had to put up with over the past five years”. He declined to say if he had been aware in advance of the protest.

“People have a legitimate right to protest and to make their concerns known, but other people also have rights as well. We’re a democratic elected representative council in the city,” Buttimer said.

He added that it was particularly unfortunate that the interruptions came as councillors discussed a council initiative to promote The Gathering and Rebel Week, a Cork-themed event due in October, which could have stimulated the economy and lessened the need for property taxes.